Germany: The growing threat of far-right terrorism
A bloody attack has finally persuaded the German government to take “right-wing terrorism seriously,” said Thomas Sigmund in Handelsblatt. Tobias Rathjen, 43, went on a shooting spree in the western town of Hanau last week, killing nine people at two Turkish-owned hookah bars before returning home and turning his gun on himself and his 72-year-old mother. The terrorist left behind a rambling 24-page manifesto in which he spewed hate at Germany’s ethnic minorities; all of those killed in the hookah bars were from immigrant backgrounds, and some were German citizens. In the wake of the bloodshed, outraged Germans poured into the streets to demonstrate in solidarity with Muslims and immigrants. The government also leaped into action, stationing police at mosques and Islamic community centers—officers were already standing guard at synagogues. “Far-right terrorism,” said Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht, “is the biggest threat to our democracy right now.”
Why did it take us so long to wake up to the danger? asked Andreas Niesmann in the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung. “Hadn’t there been enough atrocities?” A neo-Nazi gang murdered nine immigrant shopkeepers from 2000 to 2007, attacks that police initially blamed on the Turkish mafia. In 2016, a teenager with radical right-wing beliefs shot nine people dead at a Munich mall. Politician Walter Lübcke—who supported the resettlement of refugees in Germany—was assassinated at his home by a neo-Nazi last June, and four months later a far-right extremist killed two people while attempting to attack a synagogue on Yom Kippur. After each attempt, we said never again. This time, though, Germans seem to mean it. “The Hanau case marks a turning point” because it comes on the heels of a series of shocks. First, in early February, mainstream parties partnered with the “fascist” Alternative for Germany (AfD) to select the state governor in Thuringia. And days later, 12 Germans—one a police employee—were arrested over a far-right plot to spark a civil war.
Some have tried to dismiss Rathjen as “a mere madman,” said the Nürnberger Zeitung in an editorial. In his manifesto and in a video posted online, the gunman talked about the voices in his head, the secret agents who were tailing him, and how U.S. President Donald Trump had stolen his ideas. Rathjen called for the extermination of Middle Easterners and Africans and was clearly unhinged. But Hitler was mentally unwell, too, and that doesn’t excuse his crimes. The scary thing is, this particular mania is spreading, said Peter Pappert in the Aachener Zeitung. Racists used to feel ostracized, but now they can easily find cohorts online and even have a political home in the AfD, the third-largest group in the Bundestag. AfD lawmakers routinely give “hate-filled speeches” in which they claim the white race is being replaced by brown-skinned interlopers and call for “resistance against migrants.” These extremist words “spark extremist actions,” and if Germans don’t rise up in righteous rejection of the AfD, we will head back down “a dangerous path.” ■